By Justin Creech, Belvoir EagleJuly 14, 2011
An active shooter is an armed person who has used deadly physical force on other persons and continues to do so while having unrestricted access to additional victims, according to Fort Belvoir’s Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security office.
Belvoir conducts an antiterrorism exercise Friday and officials want people to know what to do in the event of an “active shooter” incident.
One of the first steps that should be taken is to get to a secure location like your office or another room that is close, according to Timothy Wolfe, Directorate of Emergency Services police chief.
“Some people will tell you everybody needs to run. Well, if you don’t know where the shooter is, you’re going to run right into his path,” said Wolfe. “If you’ve ever been in a building where shots are fired, it’s hard to tell where it’s coming from. So, if everybody runs, what are we doing?”
There are several other preventative steps that can be taken in an active-shooter situation. Upon moving to a secure location, be sure to lock the door and turn off all lights to ensure the room is dark. The next step is calling law enforcement.
If, for whatever reason, individuals cannot get to a secure location, the next best step is to lie down on the floor and do not make eye contact with the shooter.
According to Mario Sumter, emergency management specialist with Installation Emergency Management, once law enforcement identifies the situation as an active shooter, the Giant Voice system is activated. The Giant Voice system is an outdoor notification system that notifies people on post of any situation. Personnel in the operation center in the garrison headquarters will activate the system as soon as law enforcement notifies them.
“We would tell the installation to go into a lock down and tell everyone to go indoors and secure themselves in the building,” Sumter said.
Once the lockdown is activated, higher force protection measures would cause all the gates to close, preventing anyone from getting on or leaving post.
Active shooter situations vary in length, so the sooner law enforcement personnel are notified, the sooner the shooter can be neutralized.
“We are coming into the door with guns,” said Wolfe. “They don’t want to meet people with guns.
You’ve never seen an active shooter taken down by the SWAT team or a police officer because they usually kill themselves before they get there.”
Wolfe also said how law enforcement responds to an active shooter has changed since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 in Columbine, Colo. Wolfe, who was the Manassas Police Department police chief then, said once the shooter shows a propensity for violence, law enforcement will respond.
“Columbine changed law enforcement forever,” said Wolfe. “Columbine is where we did our general, circle the wagons and wait for the negotiations, while those two kids walked through the school killing everybody. We figured that day that active shooters need to be treated differently than any other law enforcement response.”
Wolfe also said DES has more active-shooter training coming, but people on post don’t need to worry.
“We’re prepared here,” said Wolfe. “It’s not that we have an unsafe working environment here, but we’re trying to prepare like we do for any other kind of man-made disaster.”